Monday, September 8, 2014

Camping at Pillsbury State Park

Andrew and I went on one last camping trip over the Labour Day weekend. I mean, it probably won't be our very last camping trip ever, but it will be the last camping trip we take where we don't have to worry about keeping track of a little one. Certainly lots of people still camp with kids, but we're probably going to have to buy a new tent (ours is a wee 2-person tent), maybe get a dinning shelter, and we'll have to do our meals differently too. I suspect there are a large number of other factors we'll have to take into account, but those considerations are for another day.

So, Pillsbury State Park. We chose this location with the hopes of going out into either a canoe or kayak for at least one of our days at the park. Even though we left our apartment at 3:30 pm, we didn't get to our site until almost 7:00 pm (due to traffic and stopping for dinner). This meant that we didn't do much on our first night besides set up and sit by the fire. Our campsite was one of the more secluded sites and considered a 'walk-in' site, although the walk was maybe a minute long. Overall, I'd say Pillsbury State Park is more rustic than Monadock State Park as it has only latrines, and water taps.
The marker and path leading up to our campsite.
Our campfire, just as it's beginning.
After our camping trip in July, Andrew researched methods on building campfires. He located several videos on YouTube on the 'Swedish Torch' method of starting fires, which he had to modify slightly since we weren't working with a full log. It worked like a charm each of our nights in Pillsbury.

On Saturday we spent the bulk of the morning and early afternoon in a canoe. We haven't honestly spent a lot of time boating, this was maybe the third time I can remember paddling together, but I think we both had a good time, and were reasonably successful (i.e. we didn't tip, and were able to navigate to where we wanted to go). Butterfield Pond (where the boat rentals are located) and May Pond are connected directly, and according to the map they're approximately 1 mile/1.6 km from tip-to-tip, then Bear Pond (0.25 miles/0.4 km) and North Pond (0.5 miles/0.8 km), can be reached by a short portage. We'd never portaged before, so we were very glad the trails between the bodies of water were short. I took the bow for the first two, but I couldn't see far ahead of me so navigation was....challenging. On the return trip Andrew took the bow, which seemed to work better. Regardless, I'm not ready for any extensive canoe camping.
A view of May Pond from the shoreline (I didn't want to take the risk of taking the camera onto the water).
Bear Pond from the shoreline.
We were out for approximately 4 hours as we paddled along the shore lines rather than cut a path directly across the ponds. Once we got back to our campsite (around 2:00 pm) we took a break before going out for a short hike up to 'Balancing Rock.' The path was pretty gentle, mainly dirt and roots, with a fairly slow slope upwards, with somewhere between 400-500 feet/120-150 metres of elevation gained. We went up with only our regular running shoes (which are the minimalistic kind) and without hiking poles. The rest of our day was spent at our campsite having dinner and relaxing by our fire.
Andrew balancing on balancing rock.
Sunday was mainly overcast and eventually rainy--although thankfully not until after we'd had our fill of hiking. Overcast weather is actually preferable for hiking in my mind because it's generally cooler, which isn't to say we weren't sweating anyway. Our goal was Lucia's Lookout (2,493 feet/760 metres), a point along the Monadnock Sunapee Greenway Trail (a 51 mile/82 km trail that runs between, not surprisingly, Monadnock and Sunapee Mountains). On the way up we took the 5 Summers Trail (4 miles/6.4 km), which was a pretty easy going path that doubles as a snowmobile trail in the winter. The trail was fairly wide with a low grade incline until 3 miles/5 km in, where it narrows to a foot path. Only the last 5 or 10 minutes up to the lookout were of any difficulty (some rocks, much steeper), but in general the hike was fairly comfortable and took us a little over 2 hours. That's not to say that it was easy-peasy and anyone could hike up there, but for two reasonably active people with some backpacking experience it was fairly relaxing.
Me, while we rested and ate lunch at Lucia's Lookout.
The view from the lookout, although this is from a spot (maybe a minute) away from the main lookout area, on the edge of the cliff.
We took the Monadnock Sunapee Greenway Trail back down the mountain. I think this trail was prettier than the 5 Summers (forest hiking trail v. mainly a snowmobile trail--although still forested), and slightly longer. There were probably a few more ups and downs on the section, but again, nothing major. About a mile (1.6 km) from Lucia Lookout we took a short detour to the Moose Lookout due to some confusion about which way to continue along the trail. The Moose Lookout was a camping spot for hikers tackling the whole Monadnock Sunapee trail, and not really much of a lookout from what we saw (i.e. it was in a well forested area). The detour took us maybe an extra 10 minutes, then we were back on our way.

Just as we reached the start (or our end) of the trail a couple of park rangers were headed up to look for a group of 10 that had gotten lost, or confused, or something...At the time it struck me as very odd that a group of 10 could have gotten lost. It's a large group, and not a particularly challenging trail and someone ought to have known how to follow the trail markers. When we checked out on Monday, Andrew asked if the rangers were able to find the group--they had. Apparently no one in the group could read the map and got confused around the Moose Lookout. Oi. At least no one was hurt, although they probably got wet as it was around that time (when we saw the park rangers) when it started to rain.

It rained for most of the rest of the night. Fairly lightly to start, not even enough to thoroughly soak the ground, but around 7:30 pm that changed to quite a downpour. Thankfully we had large tarp, and had set it up for shelter on Saturday morning, so we stayed dry. We were even able to have one last campfire since the tarp reached far enough to keep it dry.

Monday was a beautiful sunny morning, although we spent most of it packing up our site, then driving home. We could have stayed at the park for part or the rest of the day if we'd wanted, but we knew we'd have to run errands and unpack when we got home--plus we expected the traffic driving into the Boston area on Labour Day Monday would probably be atrocious if we waited too long,
One last picture of our fully packed Smart car. Next time we go on a camping trip we'll be driving something bigger.